When we pick up our pen to write, we step onto a path.
It’s not a clearly marked path.
If we look for it stretching out ahead of us, we won’t see it.
No flags mark its direction.
No paving stones or shells indicate where we need to step or warn us when we may veer off the path.
For some of us it’s a path that we follow for a week or month, for others a semester or a year.
For still others, it’s a life-long path—holding onto a pen the way an explorer holds onto a telescope to scan the horizon—putting down words, searching for stories, continuing to write each day.
It’s a path with unexpected hills and valleys, storms and lulls, unpredictable twists and turns, seemingly insurmountable roadblocks and obstacles, making it hard to stay on the path.
Indeed, the longer that we are on the path, the harder it can be to find again… and again… for with each project we must find it again.
When we were younger and first felt the glimmer of desire to write, it took courage to break away from family and friends, from their expectations of what we should do with our lives, and to follow our own desire to write.
And we followed the path, despite the allure of higher paying jobs, or jobs with more predictability, more security.
And we stay on the path, holding our pen, putting down words, writing even when writing may not result in recognition or in lucrative book contracts or movie deals.
Often, we hear writers talking about how hard it is to write, and it’s true that writing is hard.
But here’s what few writers do talk about: the deep pleasure that comes from writing, from seeing thoughts and ideas appear on paper, from working with language, from shaping stories.
Writing, like every venture into the unknown, is hard because it is an act of exploration. Each time we pick up a pen, we leap off a cliff, dive into the dark, carve a new path in the jungle hoping to discover something new that we’ve never seen before.
This is the secret, I suspect, that keeps us searching for words, for a path.
The magic of writing is that each of us discovers our own path as we create it.
Writing--each word, each sentence that we put down on paper or type on our computer screen--gives us a way to be in the world, and carving out a path is how we find our way.